The 50th state is the Paradise of the Pacific, an exotic archipelago of eight major volcanic islands and dozens of atolls and islets. It’s a place with perfect turquoise waves breaking onto the shores of dazzling beaches, idyllic waterfalls, lush rainforests and cloud-breaking volcanoes. Give these destinations a try if you want to get away from the usual tourist haunts of Hawaii.
Ahupuaʻa O Kahana State Park, Oahu
Discover lush scenery and uninterrupted views without the crowds at Ahupuaʻa O Kahana State Park, an ancient land division located on Oahu’s windward side. It spreads across 5,300 acres between Kahana Bay and the 2,670-feet-tall Pu’u Pauao mountain, at the edge of the Ko’olau Range. Kahana, the park’s largest settlement, started life as a remote fishing and farming village. Numbers declined after the creation of the Kingdom of Hawaii and later due to the region’s use as a WWII training site. Today, 31 families reside inside the park and help to promote and preserve their culture.
Experience the park along its two public hiking trails. Kapa’ele’ele Trail is a 1.2 mile-long loop that cuts through a native forest canopy to the Keaniani Lookout. Here you can admire jaw-dropping views of Kahana Bay and Hailua Fishpond. Nakoa Trail is a 2.5-mile round-trip that brings you up close to koa, hala, and octopus trees. Several stream crossings add a touch of adventure to the hike. End your day by kicking back on the gorgeous golden sands of Kahana Bay Beach Park.
You’ll find it hard not to slow down in Hanapepe, a town characterized by its plantation-style buildings on Kauai’s south shore. Inhabited long before Charles Wilkes arrived on the United States Exploring Expedition in 1840, the town boomed in the 1880s with an influx of sugar-farming immigrants. In the first half of the 20th century it became one of the island’s liveliest towns, largely due to the soldiers and sailors stationed here. Little has changed since then and the authentic facade was an inspiration for Kokaua Town, from Disney’s Lilo & Stitch movie series.
Spend your time here visiting the boutiques, cafes and galleries housed in well-preserved colorful buildings. Treat yourself to delicious ice cream at Lapperts, Hawaii’s biggest ice cream chain. Views of the surrounding green countryside are exquisite from the rickety Hanapepe Swinging Bridge. About 2 miles from the center is Salt Pond Beach Park, whose shallow pools and crystalline waters are ideal for snorkeling. Bring a tent and spend the night camping beneath swaying palm trees.
Head inland on Maui to see a slice of Hawaiian paniolo (cowboy) heritage in Makawao. Paniolos, Californian cowboys brought to Hawaii by King Kamehameha III, first arrived to this enclave on the northwest slopes of Haleakala in the 1800s. Ever since, they’ve been cattle ranching in the sprawling fields of Upcountry Maui and clinging hard to their roots. Check out July’s Makawao Rodeo for bona fide bull bashes, calf roping, parades, and rodeo shows.
Beside the cowboys, Makawao has a thriving arts scene and artisans have set up workshops inside Western-style buildings. Browse the independent galleries and stop to watch glassblowers and wood sculptors plying their trade. If you are a budding artist, sign up for a class at the Hui No’eau Visual Arts Center. History buffs can learn about the town at Makawao Museum. Don’t miss out on an indulgent cream puff from the iconic T Komoda Store and Bakery.